Issue 18: James Coghill



Strafed the city with iron /

it’s good / all this   new growth    the flowering of ampules

their attendant scaffolds /

labourers dressed in nothing

but lime, water, rust

made a tomb for air / now / let murder roam around here instead

the scrubbed out faces in old photographs

indicating loss of faith / mortal sins / suicides

when they sunk steel into the murk

and came up with bones    who    could blame them?

Walk down Cowgate and you’ll trample the trampling

two-laned livestock lowing / pat the trodden finger-bones

crushed at the cemetery’s terminal edge /

uprooted / up /

                               into the newest of air /

the Crescent bridge setting down / the men here / the women

doing everything    but

and even the animals appreciate a path

floating above the railway line      that soot bleeding vein

that vital ligature in nation’s cramped-up muscle /

even the animals appreciate / pre-sale and slaughter

and the bones shout through the men

who find them / unspellable variations, or sometimes nothing

but the disarmingly sheared joint of innocence,

or, said another way: Oh.


The medium who works       at asda

the medium everyone knows       who works       at asda —

the medium with all those dogs who everyone knows who works at asda

holds me by the upper arms and imparts his knowledge:

Queensgate, haunted by the old caretaker—

by me, I laugh, hauling rubbish from bin to bin to landfill

down stairwells marked with tiny hand-prints / — and his daughter

the light squirming under the fire exit / so run from everything

antelope skittering on cobbles / cats hysterical with acid

away from that multi-story named / in dubious honour /

of John Clare /who scrapes his fingers

across the ingrown /

                                               do something and do something now /

when he tried to change the change that was rewriting his world

to alterity

and broke down spiritually and financially simultaneously,

                                                            finding them one and the same:

tense     horror / they

told the men dig it deep, fill in the graves, the memory of graves,

and then the very thought of graves /

this world of concrete, our roots have bridled / touch nothing.


The children of the 60s are at home here 

and never learn their lesson / a monopoly on hope /

and the slice of house I rent / while the tower block Peregrines

mistake Fitzleet for the tarpeian rock / dive like an endless

stream of bodies with (self) murdering immediacy / there are

people here who never leave this place

and a vanguard for the new slavophobia / because

we like Indian food now       after that struggle

uncanny when voiced aloud now, my neighbours, try

to hide your wince

when they put the boot in     and scramble our prospects /

their hypocrisy is showing and I’m

out for want of something new / out of everything,

anything but the same

wake up and struggle to climb all this

shingle / burn the fort down when all it needed

was a lick of paint / I dreamt

I took the whole country abroad / it went better than I expected

even when asked to pick potatoes / drink anise /

confront their ancestry /

but I’m still waiting for my first roots to nurture

in this uprooted world Weil predicts    will slaughter and slaughter

even the populace of Bognor, or

Bucgan Ora who forget their town

is named after a foreign woman   constantly   unfailingly.


Put armour on him     and Jonah Snell’s     a soldier

          be         dubious

like the Norman knight who first looked up at Ferneham

and thought ‘what a shithole’ whose footsteps

I unwittingly stood in — between the mall’s plush feculence

and the magnetic pull of the bus station, let’s

                                                   get out         of here

it says as Tommy Walsh leers out from Poundland

and my sudden need for power tools is overtaken

with a need to stare, as if to watch was all I was made for;

my witness squirmingly askance under the gaze

of another’s nostalgia for a different age. Some billionaire

has trapped    this place in a different time

I thought in blind panic, waiting to hear that JFK had been shot

a second time and that the new MP for my grandparents’

constituency was this young woman called Thatcher —

                                                                    fancy       that


St Irenaeus of Lyons, I’m terrified time ended when your Christ

walked      the planet

and is fated to repeat until His return wipes

each and every eschatology from the straining eye

of our haggard intelligences

that still expect a love, despite everything,

that rises up through the cracks left by this age-old despair in remission

rise up like the interminable self-knowledge

of these market towns and all their fleshy ghosts—

how aware of their own dereliction.

James Coghill is an ecopoet with an abiding interest in lyric sequences, Swedish culture, and animal studies. He has had poems published in The Rialto, Lighthouse, and in anthologies from Sidekick Books. Currently residing in Greenwich, he sometimes blogs here: